EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The University of Evansville baseball team will kick off the 2024 season on Friday, as the Purple Aces will travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma to take on reigning Summit League champion and 2023 College World Series participant Oral Roberts in a three-game series.  The season begins Friday at 3 p.m.

Evansville is coming off a 2023 season in which the Purple Aces went 37-24 overall and advanced to the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament final game.  UE returns seven position starters, including five who have earned all-MVC honors during the course of their UE careers, as well as 10 pitchers.

Headlining UE’s returning cast is preseason all-MVC first baseman Chase Hug (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike/Olney Central).  Hug earned first-team all-MVC honors a year ago after leading UE with a .311 average and ranking in the Valley’s top 15 in 11 different offensive categories.  Senior Kip Fougerousse (Linton, Ind./Indiana Univ.) also garnered first-team all-MVC honors a year ago on the infield, but will switch to the outfield this season, as he is expected to play right field after hitting .288 last year with 13 home runs and 47 RBI.  Senior shortstop Simon Scherry (Santa Claus, Ind./Heritage Hills) also earned honorable mention all-Valley honors last season, and he led all collegiate infielders in Defensive Runs Saved at 12.7, per 643 Charts and Synergy.

Pitching-wise, UE returns its top two weekend starters from a year ago in senior RHP Nick Smith (Boonville, Ind./Boonville) and senior LHP Donovan Schultz (Kimberly, Wis./Kimberly).  Smith is the 2022 MVC Pitcher of the Year, and earned honorable mention all-MVC honors a year ago.  Smith did not lose after March 10 last season, and Evansville went 10-1 in the 11 games he pitched after March 10.  Schultz, meanwhile, led the MVC in both fewest hits allowed per nine innings and opponents’ batting average last season, while leading UE with six victories on the mound.

Oral Roberts will enter the 2024 season off of a magical 2023 campaign in which the Golden Eagles went 52-14 overall and advanced to the College World Series.  ORU ranked among the NCAA’s Top 100 in all but two statistical categories a year ago, while leading the nation in fielding percentage at .984, and ranking seventh in the country in both batting average (.321) and team earned run average (4.03).  While the Golden Eagles return only two position starters from last year’s team, Oral Roberts does return eight pitchers from last year’s staff, including weekend stalwarts Brooks Fowler (9-2, 3.26 ERA) and Jakob Hall (8-3, 3.56).  The Golden Eagles are ranked 26th nationally in the NCBWA preseason poll, and ORU is receiving votes in the USA Today/Coaches Preseason Poll as well.

This weekend’s series will renew a rivalry between the two schools, as UE and Oral Roberts used to compete against one another in the old Midwestern Collegiate Conference in the 1980s.  ORU currently leads the series 26-4 all-time, with the last meeting coming in the 1987 MCC Tournament final.